Remarks by the Hon. Shawn Richards Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education Youth Sports and Culture

Observance of Youth Month 2015 “Give Youth a Voice and Inspire Greatness”

Many of the brave and adventurous heroes depicted in the world of cinematography bare the perils of unchartered territories and near death in search of the infamous fountain of youth. This insatiable desire of many to regain, even the appearance of, youth whether through the search for mythical fountains, botox or other means is illustrative of the extraordinary value of youth. For most of us youthfulness is filled with promise, hope and vitality.

To our listening audience at home and abroad and of greatest importance today, the Youth of the Federation of St Kitts-Nevis, I bid you a good day. I find it a distinguished honour today to address our nation’s youth on the commencement of the 2015 Youth Month of Activities under the theme ‘Give Youth a voice and inspire greatness.” As Minister of Education, Youth, Sport and Culture I find myself uniquely positioned to lead in the nurturing of a culture of youth empowerment, capacity building and healthy lifestyles; in so doing building and shaping our Federation’s greatest asset of today, and leaders of today and tomorrow, our youth.

Today I join with the heads of Government of the CARICOM states in asserting that our young people are gifted with unique perspectives, energy, spirits of innovation, and other natural attributes that must be realized as essential elements of positive societal change. And that these coupled with an innate embrace of technological innovation and a passion for creativity make our youth invaluable partners in nation development rather than problems to be solved.

The Unity Government has committed to align efforts with those of regional and international youth development agencies in identifying and mitigating the critical youth marginalization factors of our time. Now some may argue that youth should be a carefree time of life, and that young people need not bother themselves with such millennium development issues such as reducing poverty, controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS, sustainable development and the others. We however are forced to face the reality that young people and children are most vulnerable to the societal ills of the day, and are well able to contribute to their demise.

Studies have revealed that society’s primary issues have direct impact on our Caribbean Youth; issues such as Violence and Crime, Unemployment and spread of HIV/AIDS. Matters that not only impact the sense of wellbeing but more detrimentally the quality and span of life of our young hopes of today and tomorrow. My Government has committed to the necessary policy changes, intergovernmental alliances and public private partnerships that engender an enabling environment in which our young people can navigate the vicissitudes of life with realized reduction in detriment.

My Government is committed to empowering our youth beyond mere tokenism, through creating and supporting conditions rich with opportunity and structure in which our youth can rise to the task of self-enablement and sufficiency, acting on their own terms, rather than aimlessly following at the directions of others. Directions that have seen masses of the now underemployed helplessly grasping at hand-outs of minimum wage with little hope of meaningful development or advancement.

The act of empowering our youth is only actualized when we equip them to create or make choices in life with knowledge of the implications of said choices. When our youth can make informed decisions freely, take necessary actions based on the choices made and are willing and able to accept the outcomes of decisions made, it is only then that our youths would finally have been empowered.

My Government today is working to create the structures of empowerment through ensuring that secondary and tertiary institutions have functional student councils where they contribute to the decision making processes of said institutions. Our Youth Parliament have admirably debated pertinent issues including increased penalties for criminal activity and gun crimes in particular, the abolition of corporal punishment and more. But these are not considered as the extent of the leadership of my government in the structuring of empowerment.

Youth forums are planned for establishment in 2016 where our youth can find a platform for contributing to issues of importance to their spheres of involvement and influence; with the formation of a Federation-wide Youth Council being the eventual outcome. A place where our youth’s voices can clearly echo their resource and value to the development of our great twin-island state of St Kitts-Nevis.

During this month a number of activities have been organized to illuminate the role of our youth in their mainstreaming and contributions to nation-building. One such is a Youth Rally in collaboration with the youth group M.A.D.E. (Making A Difference Everywhere). M.A.D.E., an excellent example of youth empowered leadership and impactful positive change, is headed by our Male alternate CARICOM Youth Ambassador, Trevis Belle. This rally provides opportunity for our young people to ‘let their voices be heard’ on a number of pertinent societal issues and to share their creativity and talent. Young people, I challenge you to seize opportunities to migrate from the realms of marginalization to mainstream locations of contribution and meaningful opposition of the status quo.

With marked aims to establish partnerships with a broad-base of stakeholders, my Government’s core construct of reaping the benefits of a united approach to addressing the ills of society, resource the planned activities to mainstream our youth. Our revisiting of our National Youth Policy for a safe passage in the Parliament is one tangible output of our unified approach to youth empowering policy development. This policy, created by our youth and pertinent stakeholders in the public and private sectors, mentors and parents, is to be the Youth Map to the mainstream.

Young people I urge you to join this new move of Youth development in our Federation. Through the channels of entrepreneurship in the Creativity for Employment and Business Opportunity, CEBO, leadership in the repositioned CARICOM Youth Ambassadors programme, and capacity building in the EU In-service Programme there are manifold opportunities to lead the charge to enfranchisement.

It is through your views, talent and energies that we can realize the establishment of safe havens for youth inclusion for Kittitians and Nevisians alike.
With these few words I wish the young people every success as you continue to celebrate youth month 2015 and invite all to participate fully in the planned activities.
Sharing with our Youth and all others involved in the prospects of this month of activities, it gives me great pleasure to declare Youth Month 2015 officially open.

May God continue to bless the Youth of our Federation.

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